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Captain's corner

By ED WALKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 5, 2000


Aquick glance at my records for September reminded me of past summers' late-season tarpon action. For the past two years, dense schools of glass minnows have gathered along the beaches toward the end of summer, from St. Pete to Honeymoon Island. With the glassies come a variety of fish, most notably big tarpon. We have hooked 15 or more tarpon some days while the glass minnows were thick. These are not like the pre-spawn tarpon that roam beaches in large migratory schools during May and June.

Most are singles, concerned more about eating than staying together. These individual fish will work together to "ball up" a pod of glass minnows, taking turns swimming through the ball and swallowing mass quantities of the tiny minnows. It is an impressive sight to see the tarpon circling the bait in tighter and tighter circles, then crash or jump through them to feed.

Since glass minnows are too small to bait a hook, and the tarpon seldom bother with just one anyway, larger live baits work best. A live threadfin floated under a cork and placed just outside the baitball is my favorite. Live pinfish also work well at times. Often the tarpon will be focused on the glass minnows and ignore your bait but if you are persistent they can be tempted. Tackle should be 20- or 30-pound spinning or plug-casting rods with 100-pound fluorocarbon leader. Hooks should be 4/0 to 6/0 depending on the size of the bait. As is always the case when tarpon fishing, hooks should be as sharp as possible to penetrate their bony mouth and stay in through multiple jumps.

- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474.

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